While blossoms and blooms and weeds and new seedlings have been telling us for days or even weeks, it is finally official. Spring has arrived! [Or, autumn, if you live in the southern hemisphere.]
At exactly 9:15 AM (PDT), on March 20, 2018, the northern hemisphere of planet Earth will officially enter spring. This is the moment when the Sun passes the Earth’s equator, moving from south to north, with no apparent tilt to the Earth axis.
Normally, we feel the Earth’s tilt as different seasons. Half of our trip around the sun is spent tilted slightly away from the sun (colder weather) and the other half is spent with a similar tilt toward the sun (warmer weather). Today, because we see the sun passing our equator, day and night are the same length. Sort of. That is why it is also called the spring equinox. I say ‘sort of’ because the day will actually be longer than the night. This is because of the sun’s light being refracted through the atmosphere before and after it has risen and set. If you want to know more about the Earth’s tilt and seasons, check out my post on winter solstice.
So, you’ve been waiting for months, browsing seed catalogs and dreaming of all the plants you want to try this year, along with some old favorites. Spring is a busy time in the garden, to be sure, but don’t be hasty. Don’t let all those visions of a summer harvest cloud your view. While the Bay Area’s last frost date was nearly a week ago, I woke to see frost all over my garden only yesterday morning. Nature does not obey our rules. We must keep our eyes and ears open and be aware of what is happening in our microclimate. That being said, it is now time to start planting! Or, is it?
Before you start planting….
Speaking of frost, what about those plants that were damaged by frost over the winter? All that damaged plant tissue should be removed now to reduce rot in the garden. It makes things look nicer, too. But are your tools sharp enough for the job? A quick fix with a file or sharpening tool makes the job so much easier, and a little 3-in-1 oil will protect those tools from moisture damage. And are your planting beds and containers actually ready for plants? Adding some aged compost before you start planting will do your plants and your soil a world of good for the upcoming growing season. While you’re outside, take a look at your citrus trees. Do they need pruning? Now is the time to do it. And, while you’re at it, keep a look out for mummies. These fungal factories can contain millions of spores. This is also the time to watch for things like mummy berry and black spot. Recent rains make this a time of fungal growth. Slugs and snails like it, too, so be prepared!
Seeds, starts, and transplants
Your garden is finally ready for planting! You can still plant winter crops, such as beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, lettuces, spinach, bok choy, fennel, kale, mustard greens, parsnips, and turnips. And it’s not too late to start that asparagus bed! You can now plant herbs, such as cilantro, dill, and parsley, but hold off on basil, until things warm up. You can now plant potatoes and radishes, too. More delicate plants, such as tomatoes and peppers can be started in pots, but only if you have a place where they can be protected from nighttime temperatures.
Hold off on beans, corn, cucumbers, melons, squash, sweet potatoes, until April or even early May. Be sure to use plant markers, as you start seeding your garden. Things can quickly get out of hand, if you forget where you put everything! If you have some spare time on your hands, as it rains, use that time to study up on your plants: what are their thinning requirements, sunlight needs, estimated mature size, irrigation and fertilizing needs? That sort of stuff. Talking about rain…
A word on drought
While the Bay Area and northern coastal California are no longer under drought status, many other parts of the state, and an estimated 32 million residents, are. And, let’s face it, the days of wasting water are over. If you haven’t yet, use today’s spring equinox as a turning point in how you look at water. Turn off faucets. Inspect irrigation systems. Use a bucket to collect shower water as it heats up. Install drought resistant native plants. Stuff like that.
For the next three months, each day is going to give you just a little more daylight ~ what will you do with yours?
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!